The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, July 25, 2008

Comicon was Ludicris

After reading the complete Shakespeare aloud--it took me about three years--I'm starting to work my way through the Bible, one chapter at a time. I'll probably increase that to two chapters, so that it will only take me about 2 years to get through it. Reading today about Ham and Noah and so forth. Remembering that Southern preachers found a way to twist this story into some justification for slavery. Brrrr. Anyway, So Ham told his brothers that his father was naked. I suppose that it was some kind of cultural taboo to see your father naked. The other brothers covered him up, walking backwards so that they wouldn't see him. Then Noah wakes up and curses Ham for...what exactly? I just couldn't make heads or tails of that one. What the heck is it that Ham did wrong? Anyone have an opinion?


Ah, the Hollywood life. Nicki and I went to the BET party at Comicon last night. It was hosted by rapper Ludicris. I remember being near the main dance floor and the announcer said: "Ludicris is in the house!" And everyone looked around excitedly, and saw...nothing. I ran into Matt Wayne, with whom I'm working on the Hannibal project, who was with his wife and the other writer on the show (I'm tired. I forget his name. Ed? Maybe. Sorry) and we went looking for a quieter place to hang out. There was a VIP lounge for which we didn't have access, but ran into Reggie Hudlin, president of BET (and director of the highest-box office film where a black lead is openly sexual: "Boomerang" with Eddie Murphy: 70,000,000 domestic) who got us in. We sat around on the couch talking, and suddenly Nicki said: "Ludicris is over in the corner" and so he was, talking to a couple of ladies. Five minutes later, he came over and welcomed us warmly, quite soft spoken and polite, and I asked if he was a comics fan, and did he like DC or Marvel. We chatted about Spider-Man, and he went off to greet others. Nice.

Nicki was cracking up about my conversation with him, and then said: "Samuel L. Jackson is right over there." And so he was. He was also tightly wound into conversations with some heavy-hitters. But after about fifteen minutes I went over, and Reggie introduced us. I called him "Colonel Fury" (from his appearance in Iron Man) and we chatted about various things, he said he wanted to read "Lion's Blood" and I gave him my card to have his people call my know the drill. After we were all chummy, I pulled open what Nicki calls my file drawer conversation, and asked: "So...who took the sex out of Shaft?" You could have cut the silence with a knife, and then he laughed, and Reggie laughed, and they said "do you want to tell him, or do I?" And they said "everyone." Jackson was eager to do it ("what part of `sex machine with all the chicks' didn't you understand?) and John Singleton kept promising him it was coming...but Paramont wouldn't let them do it. Scott Rudin, the producer who allowed implications of anal fisting in South Park between Satan and Sadam Huessein, wouldn't let a black man be sexual. Then there was a brief discussion about how when the lead of a film is black, the rules change. I've talked about this one with about ten actors now. They are unanimous: black actors want to do sex scenes as much as white ones. The studios say no, their justification is box-office history. Hudlin is doing a direct-to-video piece with Ving Rhames that sounds terrific and fully human. I'll have to check it out.


I noticed that few readers actually addressed my last question. Interesting.

Let me state another position: if you don't clearly define the terms under which you will leave someone's home, or return their possessions, and say you are the only arbiter of when these hazy terms are met--you don't want to leave, or return the possessions. You are reserving the right to constantly move the goal posts. Iraq's elected leaders? The average Iraqi? 95% of Iraqis? How about the average American serviceman on the ground? The average American? If any of these had been proposed, I might not have agreed, but at least it would have felt like someone really wanted it to happen. Not for a second do I believe that 80% of the Arab or Muslim world hates America. I think it's possible that that percentage of them hates our current leadership, yeah.

And I absolutely believe that the men who flew planes into the World Trade Center had a distinct political agenda. They were Saudis who wanted American troops off Saudi soil. They may have been fanatics, but that was hardly a random act of violence. It was murder, and terrorism, and deeply criminal. But it sure as hell wasn't random or disorganized thinking. Not one time on any Right-wing talk show have I heard the fact of the nationalities discussed. Much of America still thinks that the planes were piloted by Iraqis. It's pretty clear to me that nobody wanted us to consider the implications clearly. It's just as disturbing that the 9/11 conspiracy theorists seem to believe that someone would plot something like that without putting Iraqi bodies in there. I mean, it was a staggering level of ineptitude to attack the wrong country, but surely NOBODY could have predicted how easy it would be to get Americans to forget who actually attacked us. That one boggles my mind to this very day.


For an Oil-man dominated White House to "accidentally" attack the wrong country, which just happens to have vast oil reserves, and then set an invisible standard for leaving that has nothing to do with the wishes of the invaded people at the same time that American gas prices are creeping up to 5.00 a gallon, and billions of dollars are being made by the circle of "friends" around Bush and Cheney...well, there might not be malfeasance, but it would be insane to suggest there is no appearance thereof, or that those of us who smell a rat are irrational. And I REALLY don't want the same people who MADE the mistake asking for our unqualified trust of their intentions. How much money has been transferred from our pockets to those of the people around Bush and Cheney? Can it even be counted? Has money corrupted power in the past? You bet your ass. Does that mean it did here? No. But it would be a very gullible citizenry indeed that didn't hold their official's feet to a slow fire and ask hard questions.


Michelle said...

I listen to the Fresh Air interview with Adam McKay and actors Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly.

One of the things they talked about is a SNL skit about Cheney running the white house. It talked about invading various countries and driving up the price of oil with Bushing look very dum...etc. They decided not to do it because the premise, they decide, was too silly and would never happen. They wish they did it now, because a lot of it came true.

It would have been like the "I hope Osama doesn't know show tunes" episode of Family Guy where Stewie and Osama bin Laden sneak through airport security with weapons. It was pre-911

Never seen on air again.

You can listen to it here:

Michelle said...

Sigh...apparently I can't type in past tense today.

Pagan Topologist said...

If by your last question you mean the question as to whether rational Arabs might consider our stance an act of war against the Arab world, my answer is: Clearly, yes. How else could it be interpreted?

Kami said...

I didn't say anything because I guess it seemed like there wasn't a question posed that wasn't rhetorical.

Also, apparently the stated reason for 9/11 (at least according to Wikipedia, which may not be accurate) is to liberate shrines in Jerusalem (and other places.) Not to boot Americans out of Saudi Arabia. But I'm sure quite a few reasons and many more excuses were given, including by some Americans themselves, about why we deserved to be attacked.

The resource I used is here:,_2001_attacks

Personally I think just about everyone except corrupt politicians (and you can point fingers at just about any high level official in Washington D.C. and probably be right) would be happy to leave on a 16 month timetable if that's what the Iraqi government wants. Eventually they'll have to sink or swim on their own. If the Iraqis are being pressured to allow us to stay or being forced to accept our presence then that's despicable. I would react very violently to that if I was a citizen.

Unfortunately we're at the mercy of spinful media and it's going to be really hard to get at any real facts. Also, bear in mind that Maliki has a very complex political situation on his hands and the Americans are *not* his only worry. Not by a long shot. And we have the psychology of the population to take into account. Can they honestly express their own desires to outsiders without fear? They may be telling Americans what they want to hear, but they also may be telling their own people in charge what they think *they* want to hear, or what they think their neighboring countries may want to hear, or what they think will keep them in the norm with their individual neighborhoods or their family. I have seen interviews where family members disagree and it appears that there is a healthy discourse (or the appearances of one) out in public in Iraq. If so that's fabulous and I hope it continues. But I don't believe for a second that getting a real opinion out of a citizen, much less a politician, is there for the asking.

Maybe the trust relationships developing are not between our politicians and their politicians. That would be strange (though not unheard of.) I think they're forming between our troops and their troops, and that could be a very good thing. It could also be easy to get addicted to the mutual support and brothers in arms loyalty.

Here's a thought experiment: What if you gave political control to a population of people who have had all the following men and women killed or imprisoned: those who stood up for themselves, who were willing to speak out, who tried to use education and reason to prove their points, who expressed an opinion counter to the political party line, or otherwise attempted to use communication or civil disobedience in any form to be heard, and/or their relatives. This isn't an idle thought experiment. It's an opportunity. How do find leaders when so many of the leaders are dead? What positive and negative qualities will those who show the most promise for leadership have and how would you support them so that they could grow, learn and change in positive ways? How long would it take? How long will the damage and rage impair the people, and how will they express it? In which directions? Inward? Outward? Both?

I think that being subject to a violent dictatorship is similar but not exactly the same as the effects that slavery in the U.S. had on black Americans. I think there's enough common ground to provide some answers and more importantly, excellent questions.

Kami said...

Oops, I realized I had an incomplete thought. That despite paragraphs of blathering! Sorry. Anyway, life is on the edge there, so the reason I say that opinions aren't there for the asking is because they have a very different view of media than we do. If an American has a microphone poked in their face and a camera, woo hoo! I'm famous! From their pov, that's a gun pointed at their head. Some are more than brave enough to stare that gun in the face and say what they feel. But ... Also, remember that trust is betrayed by the media every day. An English prince had to be sent home from Afghanistan because some moron posted pictures of him that could identify his unit and location. Thanks so much for revealing the 'truth.' As long as it sells magazines and newspapers and tv ads, I guess. :-(

Nancy Lebovitz said...

I thought Ham's crime was to set Noah up to be mocked by his other two sons. Wikipedia has some Jewish traditional explanations of why the curse was so severe, and they're a lot more lurid. I would say it was a desperate effort to make the passage make moral sense, and it doesn't work.

I'd also thought US bases in Saudi Arabia were a big issue for bin Laden, but I've been poking around online and have found some cites for the idea, but no original sources. I'm beginning to wonder if it's true.

Marty S said...

Steve: i think you are in a sense asking the wrong question/questions.
Lets consider some scenarios.

1) The majority of Iraqis don't support or like the current government.

If this is true then the current government is just a puppet we have setup and these people probably resent us already and will continue to with or without a time table.

2)The majority of Iraqis like and support the current government and recognize that without our support the government would be attacked by its enemies and probably fall to those enemies.

In this case the majority of Iraqis probably have a favorable view of us and might feel abandoned if we left before the current government is secure.

3)The majority of Iraqis approve of the government and feel that it is capable of surviving on its own and that it is time for us to leave.

In that case a timetable might be appropriate and maintain a favorable feeling toward us.

So where you stand on a timetable and how you think a timetable will help/hurt depends upon your evaluation of which of the above scenarios is the closest to the truth.

Anonymous said...

The curse of Ham in the Hebrew Bible

The source of the "curse of Ham" interpretation comes from Genesis 9:20-27, which states the story of Noah's family, soon after the flood:

20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: 21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. 23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness. 24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. 25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. 26 And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. 27 God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

Ham is not directly cursed for his actions; instead the curse falls upon his youngest son Canaan. The curse seems unusually severe for merely observing Noah unclothed. An explanation sometimes offered notes that the phrase "expose father's nakedness" is used several times elsewhere in the Pentateuch as a euphemism for having sexual relations with one's mother, suggesting a different crime.

Leviticus 20:11

If a man has sexual intercourse with his father’s wife, he has exposed his father’s nakedness.

Leviticus 18:7-8

You must not expose your father’s nakedness by having sexual intercourse with your mother. She is your mother; you must not have intercourse with her. 8 You must not have sexual intercourse with your father’s wife; she is your father’s nakedness.

Craig B. said...

I'm with Perry. Better said than I would have!


Anonymous said...

I think Anonymous has uncovered some serious nakedness about the curse after which you are inquiring, Steve. I can add my personal opinion. Here goes:

Keep in mind that (in my opinion) these stories were written by clever, but ordinary men. As a writer yourself, perhaps you understand that people sometimes work out their 'stuff' in their writings. They organize their personal history, beliefs, and world views this way, even when they don't know they are doing it.

I believe the writer was conveying a symbolic story of a family dysfunction, be it his own, or one near to him. The metaphor used is 'seeing his father naked'. I'm not sure that the writer is conveying an actual story of incest as evidenced by Anon in the references to Leviticus, though he might be, but it is quite possible that 'seeing his father naked' could be a metaphor for exposing some weakness that the father *himself* had, such as a propensity toward incest or some other serious abuse. In this light, it is possible that the passages in Leviticus are the ancient form of finding a way to make the victim into the guilty party should they develop the bad manners to open their big mouth about the whole sordid mess. (Kind of along the lines of 'he who smelt it, dealt it.) If you will notice, elders are quite revered in the bible.

Perhaps Noah himself was the real perpetrator of an incest in his family and Ham or Canaan might have been the victim. Ham told his brothers. Of course, as it does today in such cases, all hell would have broken loose and Ham probably would have retracted his story and the whole issue would then have been buried. His brothers probably helped to squash the tale (they shielded their view and would not look at their naked father).

The cursing of Canaan, which is done in retaliation for Ham's seeing and telling, might really represent what the curse of victimization and silence can mean for the next generation in an abusive family. Ham's father reprimands him for telling and demands (directly or indirectly) a retraction, thus cursing the son of Ham. This is a curse to the son of Ham because in one way or another, history will find a way to repeat itself when it cannot be remembered, discussed, and examined honestly. You'll run into mentions of the 'generational curse' in your travels through the bible, Steve. You'll find plenty of rape and incest as well, but it is usually only disguised this way when it is perpetrated against men and boys.

I think the story of the curse of Canaan and the generational curse of the bible are the same metaphor. I believe this is an ancient metaphor for the destruction that is caused by incest and abuse and that these stories represent what happens in these families to keep the cycle of abuse active. People refuse to 'see their parents naked' (acknowledge the sins of the father) and the abuse continues because "that never happened" or "it wasn't that bad", etc.

Seems peoples' minds have been searching for ways to tell what has happened to them for a very long time. Of course, they must have a way to tell that won't get them kicked out of any gardens for having wisdom, so they write stories. I think the story of the Garden of Eden is a cleverly disguised metaphor as well. Adam and Eve were cast from the Garden for eating from the Tree of Knowledge. I believe that 'God the Creator' in this story represents actual parents or other powerful human(s) who created some 'paradise' (or home, workplace, community, etc.). Children (employees, servants, etc.) are expected to blindly obey and also to 'worship' the parents (employer, ruler, slave owner or other 'superior'). If they dare to become wise to some wrong committed by a 'parent' (or parent figure) and then share that knowledge (as Eve gave the apple to Adam), then they will be cast from the family (business, organization, kingdom) and be left to suffer the brutality of the wilderness without the help of any powerful other. They will be left, in many cases, to die.

Sorry for the long ramble. Enjoy the bible, Steve. You wil learn a lot about humanity and the origins of present day societies in there. Much of it will be unpleasant, but it is what it is. You might want to look into some translation texts (from Aramaic to Greek and Greek to English? I think this was my progression, but I'm not sure anymore as that was a long time ago). They will help further your understanding. They were especially useful to me in seeing the ways that I believe some of the teachings of Jesus were somewhat misrepresented by some of his apostles (especially Paul), no doubt in fear of the brutality of the Romans.


Anonymous said...

I highly recommend
the Interlinear Bible
Old Testament in Hebrew with literal translation under the Hebrew words
as well as along side
the King James translation
New Testament is the greek text
with literal trans and King James.

You all seem to be glossing over
that Ham saw his father
not only naked
(whastever the meaning of that phrase)
but also DRUNK

as for the incest
having spent hundreds of
therapeutic hours
with about 70 women
who were incest victims
I can tell you
I came to think of the incest
which was very real
as mainly
symbolic of an even greater
parents who give out
an unrelenting message to the child
from early early on
that the child is a piece of shit
who can NEVER do anything without
messing it up

this produces women
diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder
chaotic beings
who self mutilate
usually are chemical dependent
fredquently rape victims as well
body and image distortions
immense rage at self
(with huge spill-over onto others)
if you ask therapists
the scourge of a patient roster

I loved them
and told them stories
especially made for them
that involved shifting perspective
(I told them the disprder
a perceptual problem and
showed them through story-telling how you can
chose a different perception of Self

what happened with them
is alal creedit to them
but also the best work
of my lifetime.

plus report on my fasting

wo weeks now
the first week 2 24 hour fasts
the second week everyday 19 hour fast
and 5 hour window for eating

plus I'm working out
every other or two days
yesterday I went up
in weight and number of reps
on everything I'm doing

fell great
don;t think about food much
during the 19 hour periods
worry some about getting enough of the right food
in in 5 hours
I'm trying to ingest between
25-40 gms of fiber daily
so what I do eat
is excellent food

though it's difficult for me to get more than one substantial meal
and a couple of snacks (a piece of fruit; a protein shake)in
before the wiondow closes again
for another 19 hours.

so I'm halfway through
the experimental
"let me see if I like the way this works" phase

I've lost 6 pounds.
and I am musclin' up!

Christian H. said...

The Bible is not always literal. I believe a big problem is the way the English translated it first into Greek. I think it would be better translated to French first as French has masculine/feminine conjugation in singular and plural. It's said that Ham was the first "gay," so maybe Noah was psychic. I believe all of the prophets were. I also think they did a lot of opium which caused their weird visions.

I realized I didn't answer that last question.

My answer is:

Yes they should want to kill us. And they should want us out. At least a quarter million Iraqis have paid for our arrogance with their lives.
How would you feel if a bomb destroyed you whole block and your children?

As far as sex scenes I hope no one does anymore.


And because white guys do it is no reason at all. A lot of them want Jim Crow back.

I can live without any naked asses in a movie I want to enjoy.
I will just never understand what the attraction is.

As far the WTC incident, I find it amazing that no one equates the date with a Public Enemy song (I dialed 911 a long time ago). If you look at the perpetrators they looked for the most part like black men.

Unknown said...

I see a couple of layers to the Ham story.

1) The names you get in the early OT genealogies are the legendary ancestors of particular nations/tribes, and the stories told about them sometimes reflect what would have been current political alliances and conflicts. (And sometimes kinship may be "discovered" in service of an alliance, as in one of the Maccabees books where the Jews at one point discover they're related to the Spartans.) So, at the time this story was told, the Hebrews, who considered themselves descendants of Shem, were in conflict for land with other people whom they saw as descended from the legendary ancestors Ham and Canaan. These are, of course, an entirely different set of people from the ones to whom the curse of Ham later got assigned in the US, but there's a similar deal of wanting to see your group as the one that's blessed, and those other guys as not deserving the same blessings.

2) I tend to take the view that Ham is to be seen as exposing his father's drunken nakedness to shame and ridicule, while his brothers are protecting Noah's reputation. It seems to me the simplest reading of the story that's consistent with the vehemence of the punishment. Noah thinks his sons should protect his honor, and the one who's so disloyal as to expose him deserves cursing.

Steven Barnes said...

Thanks for the Bible stuff. My interpretation is that these were older stories, finally written down after centuries of "telephone"-style games. But by comparing them, veins of literal or metaphorical truth can be extracted. Fascinating because of the cultural significance, at the very very least.
I guess my problem with Iraq is that there is nowhere to go for a view of what the Iraqis themselves want. We can't have them vote about us leaving or staying...but supposedly their elections were valid. Their leaders can't be trusted to state what is best for their country...but Americans can? Or...I'm supposed to ignore the fact that Bush and Cheney's friends are making billions?
Yes, I think that being controlled by a dictator would create similar damage to slavery. The amount of time that the condition lasts, and the difficulty of moving from the "oppressed" to the "oppressor" class, or ability to leave the country would also factor in. Year for year, for instance, the Jews in WW2 were FAR worse off than African slaves, but that goes beyond "dictatorship" to "extermination." Ugh.

Steve Perry said...

Looking for literal meaning in the Bible is iffy in the extreme.

I dunno how you got past Cain's wife. Or Lot's daughters ...

Onan gets zapped for masturbation, but Lot's daughters get their father drunk, sleep with him, get pregnant, and give rise to all the great Biblical families ... ?

Seems a tad, I dunno, unjust?

Go for moral lessons. As literal writing, there are logical holes you could drive a train through.

When you get done with the OT and NT, check out The Book of Mormon, you'll like that story ...

Kami said...

I personally don't want to go to any political leaders for answers to the question of who stays and who goes and who's in power and who isn't, but it's not my call. Bush and Cheney will be out of there soon so right now all anyone can do is damage control, assuming there's damage being done. That too is unclear.

Kami said...

Also, as far as money, profiting from suffering is nasty, ugly business. I'm not sure that's what's going on, though.

And money isn't finite. It's a very odd and in some ways abstract creation of man that does interesting things. There are average, hard-working people in very harsh third world or worn torn areas that are making more money than they ever dreamed, lifting themselves up from subsistence and starvation into comfort and security because of foreign (including American) corporations. Can we do more for them? Yes. Is it our job to do more for them? No. Do I want corporations to be more charitable and fair? Yes, and I hope that we become so, but first I would like corporations to be more careful with the way they handle overseas industry. But that's a whole 'nother subject ...

Anonymous said...

The Bible: It's a book of myth so what do you expect? Reason? It's not like you would murder people over it...oh wait. People are hard wired for religion though, perhaps gullibility is a survival trait. Most of the things parents tell you are helpful. I can't wait for more modern religions based on, say, the Dune Trilogy, or Star Trek. I can see myself worshiping at the altar of Spock...

Iraq: The Iraq War is evil. People that don't see this, at this point, are stupid. You don't even have to read books anymore. It's all here on youtube. "Winning" is defined by getting the Iraqis to sign an agreement at the point of a gun that gives away their resources. Sad thing, Obama hasn't denounced this agreement but I don't think he'll murder more Iraqis to enforce it but you never know, he's moving to the "center" afterall...

Reggie Hudlin: I know you know at least eight to seven ways to kill a man with your bare hands and I wish you would have used one of them on Reginald Hudlin, who has ruined BET on Jazz by turning something that was unique and interesting into garbage. Too many articulate black men in suits who weren't in jail or proud to have been in jail. Thanks Reg. You should have asked him whether or not whether the white folks who run BET will ever allow us to have a real news station...a pathetic front for white owners. I spit on him.

Lion's Blood: I hope that Sam Jackson gets back to you on that because that would be a tremendous alt history in the right hands. Charisma would be an incredible movie as well, and could even be a more grounded harry potter franchise series...why don't black actors utilize the works of talented black writers? Are they dumb? And no I don't care if I ever work for Hollywood...

Philip Shropshire

Marty S said...

Steve: If I were going to read a religious text, I wouldn't waste my time on the bible. I would recommend the Talmud instead. Much more interesting with lots of discussion on moral issues, even if they are couched in terms of what does god want from us.

Marty S said...

Steve: I have a question that has nothing to do with your post but if you could answer in a few lines it would satisfy my curiosity.

When I read novels I tend to prefer those with more shorter chapters over those fewer longer chapters, so my question is: Is the choice simply a matter of what comes naturally to the author or is it something you learn and choose deliberately. Also if it is a deliberate choice what is the motivation for choosing one over the other.

Anonymous said...

I spent 3 days at Comicon (exhausted still) and had a great time. I attended the Black Panel and The BET Panel. Reggie Hudlin was in both- now there is a wise man. He gives great advice and really tries to break it down for the up and coming artists.
It would have been nice to have seen you in a panel discussion -hint-
Oh, VERY hyped about the Black Panther and Hannibal animated series. its about time

Ronald T. Jones said...

Saw the trailer for the Black Panther animated series. I was disappointed. I'm accustomed to higher quality animation. The animation in Black Panther looks incomplete, as if someone took some serious shortcuts with the budget.

Steven Barnes said...

Marty S.--

Chapter length is used to control the sense of pace and energy and momentum. Definitely artistic choice on the part of the author.

Steven Barnes said...

Very few actors have the resources to make movies without major external investment. Movies are hella risky, and have destroyed many, many personal fortunes when people tried to self-finance. Black actors do option black books, but then they have to take their projects to others to get them made. There are PLENTY of black millionaires who are happy to put their money in stable investments in the black community. Movie risk has to be spread across dozens of backs to make it even remotely sane. Otherwise, you make a tiny movie, with few resources, and it goes direct to Blockbuster.